This week in county government; Supes adopt new rules for roaming dogs; BOS roundup; Planners to consider solar and short-term rental regs, CUP for special event venue
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This week in county government: public meetings, May 9 through May 14
Wednesday, May 11
Louisa County Water Authority, Public Meeting Room, Louisa County Office Building, 1 Woolfolk Ave., Louisa, 6 pm. At publication time, an agenda was not publicly available.
Thursday, May 12
The commission will discuss proposed changes to the county’s solar ordinance, particularly as it relates to utility-scale solar development, and draft regulations for the establishment and operation of short-term rentals. See below for more information.
The commission will hold three public hearings, considering whether to recommend to the Board of Supervisors approval of amendments to the county’s solar ordinance, adoption of new regulations that govern the establishment and operation of short-term rentals, and the issuance of a Conditional Use Permit allowing the operation of a special event venue and cottages on property zoned agricultural (A-2). See below for more information.
Additional information about Louisa County’s upcoming public meetings is available here.
Interested in taking your talents to one of the county’s numerous boards and commissions? Find out more here, including which boards have vacancies and how to apply.
Supervisors adopt new rules for roaming dogs
The Louisa County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Monday night to prohibit dogs running at large any time of year and to implement an escalating penalty structure aimed at habitual offenders. (meeting materials, video)
Some residents have urged the board to rein in roaming dogs, arguing that the county’s current dogs running at large ordinance fails to hold irresponsible dog owners accountable and endangers people and pets. Several board members suggested the amended ordinance responds to those concerns without being overly punitive.
“I understand that there are people with habitual dog problems, and I get that that’s probably why we are in this room having an ordinance issue. But there are also people whose dog just gets away sometimes and doesn’t cause any trouble,” Jackson District Supervisor Toni Williams said, adding, “(The ordinance) was made to offer grace for the people where stuff just happens, or the dog just got away.”
The revised ordinance beefs up the current rules, which only bar roaming dogs during April, May, and June, pairing a year-round prohibition with a penalty structure that allows for two written warnings in a two-year period. A third offense within two years could result in a $100 fine. Another offense within two years of the fine could result in a court summons and a Class 4 Misdemeanor. Animal Control Officers may pick up a roaming dog and either return it to its owner or take it to the Louisa County Animal Shelter where the owner could retrieve it. The new ordinance takes effect July 1.
Under state and county code, a dog is considered running at large when its “roaming or running off the property of its owner or custodian and not under its owner's or custodian's immediate control.” The revised ordinance includes a specific exemption for dogs “engaged in lawful hunting” as required by state law. It also exempts hunting dogs when training and dogs assisting in farming activity.
The new ordinance applies county-wide except in about 25 subdivisions, mostly around Lake Anna, and the Mineral Trailer Park. Those areas already bar dogs running at large year-round, and violators are subject to a fine. The towns of Louisa and Mineral also bar roaming dogs year-round under their own ordinances.
Chief Animal Control Officer Alyssa Ellison, who previously criticized the county’s ordinance for failing to provide officers effective means to deal with residents who repeatedly allow their canines to run at large, said the amendments should reduce the number of roaming dogs. She told supervisors that keeping dogs at home with their owners benefits the community and county government because it means fewer dogs end up in the animal shelter and fewer get hit by cars. She noted that the county is often left to pick up the tab for dogs’ medical bills after they get hit.
Six community members weighed in during the public hearing, urging the board to adopt the strengthened ordinance. Several characterized the amendments as a starting point in addressing a long-standing problem that, they say, is detrimental to their neighborhoods and to the dogs that are allowed to roam.
Andrew Neilson, a Louisa District resident, said he fully supported the amendments. He told the board that, during his regular walks along the road near his home, he’s frequently stalked by a neighbor’s dog. He said that the dog’s owner is apologetic but never corrects the issue and that Louisa’s current rules don’t provide animal control officers the tools they need to rein in the dog. He deemed the proposal a win for residents and dogs.
“These amendments will give residents of the county a lawful manner to address problems. These amendments will also protect dogs from their irresponsible owners. They will help to reduce stray dogs, dogs getting hit by cars, wildlife from being harassed, among many other things,” he said.
Cara Coleman, a Lake Anna resident and president of the Long View Shores Homeowners Association, told the board that, in her neighborhood, there are an “incredible amount of dogs that are running loose without proper collars and owners present,” noting that some homeowners are afraid to let their children and pets outside to play. She worries about dogs getting hit by cars or harmed in other ways, she said. Coleman suggested that she’d prefer stiffer penalties but encouraged the board to adopt the new regulations to “protect our community as well as the pets themselves.”
Jennifer Carter, another Lake Anna resident, agreed. She said roaming dogs frequently visit her property and are a threat to her pets and her family. Describing herself as a “dog lover,” she called the amendments “a first step” toward providing animal control officers tools to hold irresponsible pet owners accountable. She contended that some residents routinely allow their dogs to roam, using animal control to fetch them and bring them home with no penalty.
“You are going to see what happens once you initiate some first level rules and then see how it affects these same violators. Do take a first step. Please do something to get these folks attention,” Carter said.
Mountain Road District Supervisor Tommy Barlow wondered if the amendments would be effective in controlling roaming dogs. Barlow said that the county is unlikely to get anyone’s attention with a $100 fine, the maximum civil penalty allowed under state code.
“Until you get up to that fourth time, I don’t think anybody is going to pay much attention,” Barlow said, referencing the court summons issued for a fourth offense.
Several supervisors countered that the amendments are a good place to start, noting that they don’t want to crack down on dog owners whose pet accidentally escapes. Two supervisors appeared reluctant to enact rules that could prevent dogs from regularly visiting neighbors who welcome their company.
Williams recounted the story of his dog, Daisy, who “crossed the street twice a day to go get biscuits from the neighbor” for 15 years. “There’s that side of the county here too. I hate to see us start talking about increasing (the penalties) and making (the ordinance) tighter,” he said.
Green Springs District Supervisor Rachel Jones expressed a similar sentiment. She said that while there are irresponsible dog owners in her district whose pets cause problems, there’s also a “famous” wandering dog named Roxy, who roams among Green Springs’ farms.
“People pick her up and put her back at her driveway and everyone feeds her biscuits around the community and (they) love this little dog,” she said.
Learn more about the county’s new dogs running at large ordinance here.
BOS roundup: supes broaden tax relief program, approve secondary road plan
The Louisa County Board of Supervisors conducted public business in about an hour and 15 minutes at its May 2 meeting. In addition to passing a beefed-up ordinance aimed at reining in roaming dogs, the board broadened a tax relief program for qualified elderly and disabled residents and approved the Virginia Department of Transportation’s six-year secondary road plan. Check out the meeting highlights below. (meeting materials, video)
Board broadens tax relief program: Supervisors voted unanimously Monday night to broaden a program that offers real estate tax relief to some elderly and disabled residents, raising the income cap that, in part, determines eligibility for the program from $40,000 to $50,000 and tweaking the sliding scale that determines how much relief residents qualify for.
Supervisors made the change as the county’s real estate assessments soared more than 12 percent over the last year. Though the board adopted a level real estate tax rate of 72 cents per $100 of assessed value as part of its $146.2 million budget for Fiscal Year 2023, many homeowners will see their tax bills rise.
The board had limited discussion about the program Monday night but some members said at previous meetings that they should expand its eligibility requirements to help residents on fixed incomes who are struggling in the face of rising consumer costs. Monday’s public hearing marked the third time the board has revised program in the last year. It hadn’t previously been updated since at least 2008.
Under its current parameters, the program provides real estate tax relief to permanently disabled residents and residents 65 years old and over whose income falls at or below $50,000 a year and whose net worth, excluding their home and 10 acres, falls at or below $200,000. Residents are eligible for up to $2,000 in tax relief.
The county uses a sliding scale to determine how much relief residents receive based on their income and net worth. The board tweaked the scale Monday to provide more generous exemptions (view matrix here) and county staff extended the deadline to apply for the program from May 1 to June 1.
Staff projects that the revised program will result in a $500,000 loss in revenue for county coffers, but County Administrator Christian Goodwin said that figure is just an estimate. He said it’s unclear how many applications the Commissioner of Revenue’s office will receive over the next month.
Two residents weighed in on the changes during the public hearing with one urging the board to broaden the program and another questioning the move.
In an email, Mary Gerdt told supervisors that she and her husband live on a fixed income and are struggling to keep up as the assessed value of their home rises. She suggested that the tax relief program is critical to the couple’s ability to remain in their home.
“Our house is a fine house. It was assessed by tax assessors at a value up quite a bit from last year so the rise in (our taxes) would erode our savings, threatening our ability to age in place. Please adopt the proposed tax relief measures,” she wrote.
Chris Liles, who urged the board at their March 21 meeting to cut the real estate tax rate in response to rising assessments, wrote in a letter that changing the tax relief program means the board is “picking the citizens that should benefit when everyone is impacted.”
Liles said that he didn’t understand the board’s rationale for expanding the program since members have maintained that they aren’t raising taxes. He also questioned how the county would absorb the projected $500,000 revenue loss.
“Based on past conversations, emails, and statements at Board of Supervisors meetings, the stance of the Louisa County Board of Supervisors is that there has been no increase in taxes levied. I fail to see the rationale in the expansion of tax relief,” Liles said. “I was also told on numerous occasions that there was literally no fat in the budget that was passed but the Board of Supervisors was able to find a half million dollars in tax relief that could be removed from the potential revenue stream. How do supervisors account for this half million and where will it come from this year and in the future?”
Click here to learn more about the tax relief program.
Supervisors adopt six-year secondary road plan: Supervisors unanimously approved the Virginia Department of Transportation’s six-year secondary road plan for Louisa County. The plan covers road improvements in the secondary system from FY23 through FY28, earmarking between $178,838 and $234,381 a year for the improvements for a total projected allocation of roughly $1.27 million. The funds are drawn from the state’s Rustic Road program, which is specifically aimed at paving unpaved public roads, and “telefee” funds, money paid by telecommunications companies that use public right of ways.
The plan earmarks about $1.21 million to pave parts of the following roads: Colemans Lane (Route 735); Pine Ridge Drive (Route 1046); West Green Springs Road (Route 617) outside of the Green Springs National Historic Landmark District; Poplar Avenue (Route 645); Harts Mill Road (Route 647); Albemarle Avenue (Route 1104); Piedmont Avenue (Route 1117); and Midway Lane (Route F188). Colemans Lane, Pine Ridge Drive, and West Green Springs Road sit atop the priority list with each slotted for some funding in FY22-23.
Supervisors held an April 18 work session with Residency Administrator Scott Thornton to review and update the plan, which the board is required to adopt annually. Based on that meeting, Thornton said that Midway Lane was moved to the bottom of the paving priority list. Patrick Henry District Supervisor Fitzgerald Barnes, whose district includes the road, said that Boxley Materials Company, which operates an asphalt plant at the end of Midway Lane, has already resurfaced the road.
Green Springs District Supervisor Rachel Jones noted during the work session and at Monday’s meeting that she and VDOT are still in discussion with residents about which portion of West Green Springs Road will be paved. She said residents in the Green Springs National Historic Landmark District prefer to keep the road gravel inside the district. Thornton said there’s still time to work out exactly what area is slotted for improvement as construction on the road isn’t expected to begin until FY24.
VDOT is currently paving Rolling Path Road (Route 698), a project that was funded in previous plans. That work is expected to be finished by July, a VDOT representative said at the work session.
Outside of the rustic road program, the plan allots $55,000 in telefee funds for the county-wide rural additions program. The program improves private roads to bring them into the state system. A $10,000 allocation is slated for FY26-27 and a $45,000 allocation is slated for FY27-28.
Bylaws change: The board unanimously approved an amendment to its bylaws that requires community members who speak during the public comment period or a public hearing to share only their name and voting district. Supervisors customarily ask speakers to provide their name, address, and voting district though the bylaws didn’t explicitly list those requirements. Board Chair and Mineral District Supervisor Duane Adams suggested the amendment, citing safety concerns.
“Today, when we livestream these meetings, when we archive these meetings, when anybody can go online and look at the meetings, there really doesn’t seem to be a reason to publicize your home address so that people with one click of a button can find your home address. Your name and your voting district identify you to the board, to your specific board member,” Adams said. He added that he recently read an article about a person who shared their address during a city council meeting in another state and “someone who was watching took great issue with what they said, made a note of their home address, went to their house, and there was an altercation.”
Budget appropriation: Supervisors voted unanimously to appropriate the Fiscal Year 2023 Operations and Maintenance Budget and Capital Improvement Plan. The operating budget totals nearly $135.4 million while capital spending exceeds $10.8 million. The board adopted the annual spending plans at its April 18 meeting. Click here to check out the FY23 budget.
Parks, Rec and Tourism receives state grant: Louisa County will benefit from nearly $25,000 in state grant funding, courtesy of the Virginia Tourism Corporation, Governor Glenn Youngkin announced Monday.
Louisa’s Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department secured the funding via a VTC initiative designed to leverage local marketing dollars with matching state funds to increase visitation and traveler spending. VTC awarded over $2.7 million in matching grants and reimbursable sponsorship money to 259 local and regional tourism programs.
County Administrator Christian Goodwin said during his bimonthly report to the board that the department will use about $4,900 to develop a tourism-focused mobile app while the remaining $20,000 will be used to publicize events.
The Louisa County Chamber of Commerce received a $5,000 grant for its Unplug and Play 2.0 initiative. The chamber launched the Unplug and Play marketing campaign last year “to boost our economy by encouraging visitors to come to Lake Anna and Louisa,” according to the organization’s website.
Louisa’s Southern Revere Cellars secured a $10,000 grant. It’s unclear how the business plans to use the money.
CSA supplemental appropriation: The board unanimously approved a $200,000 supplemental appropriation to the Children Services Act fund with $88,000 coming from the county’s general fund and $112,000 coming from state funding.
The Children’s Services Act, passed in 1993, established a single state pool of funds to purchase services for at-risk youth and their families. The state funds, combined with local funds, are managed by the Community Policy Management Team, an interagency committee that oversees services to youth.
Louisa County’s CSA case load projections often exceed budgeted expectations, necessitating supplemental appropriations. Jackson District Supervisor Toni Williams, who chairs the CPMT, said there’s a demand in the county for services for children with special needs.
“I’m not going to apologize that we are getting a supplemental appropriation. I just need to make you aware of the need we have in the county and, at CPMT, we take our job spending this funding seriously,” he said, adding that the committee asks “hard questions” about what services are appropriate and impactful.
Courthouse Road speed study: Residents along the Courthouse Road (Route 208) corridor near Ferncliff have expressed concerns about the speed limit in the area. Supervisors unanimously approved a resolution requesting that VDOT conduct a speed assessment if they don’t already have enough data on hand to determine if a speed limit reduction is appropriate.
Planning Commission to consider new solar and short-term rental regs, CUP for event venue
The Louisa County Planning Commission will be busy Thursday evening, convening both a 5 pm work session and its 7 pm monthly meeting. The latter meeting includes three public hearings.
During the work session, the commission will discuss changes to county regulations that could sharply limit utility-scale solar development and proposed regulations for short-term rentals, the same items slated for two public hearings at the 7 pm meeting. In the third public hearing, commissioners will consider an application for a Conditional Use Permit to establish a special occasion venue and cottages on property zoned agricultural (A-2).
Commission to continue a public hearing on new regulations for utility-scale solar facilities: The Planning Commission left a public hearing and work session in mid-April with significant questions about proposed regulations that could reshape the future of utility-scale solar development. The commission will take the matter up again Thursday night during a second work session and a continuation of last month’s public hearing.
Crafted by Mineral District Supervisor Duane Adams and Patrick Henry District Supervisor Fitzgerald Barnes, who comprise the Board of Supervisors’ solar committee, the draft regulations make their intent clear: “to preserve and protect the county’s rural ambiance and its agricultural and forestal lands.” The proposed rules would bar utility-scale solar facilities that produce less than 151 MW of power and cap the acreage dedicated to large-scale solar generation to three percent of the county’s land, or about 9,800 acres. The committee has publicly stated that the 151 MW floor is, in part, designed to maximize the economic benefit of the facilities because sites that generate more than 150 MW don’t qualify for state-mandated tax breaks.
In addition, the proposed rules would enact specific siting requirements for the sprawling solar facilities that the county would consider—solar sites that produce more than 150 MW of power require hundreds of acres of land—encouraging their construction within a mile of high-voltage transmission and distribution lines, doubling the required vegetative buffer around the sites from 150 to 300 feet, and prohibiting the facilities in residential and most industrial zoning in designated growth areas.
In response to concerns about significant runoff from Dominion’s 88 MW Belcher Solar Facility in Barnes’ district, the draft amendments beef up erosion and sediment control measures. They require that developers implement a phased approach to site preparation and construction with no more than 100 acres cleared at a time, compel developers to pay a third-party engineer to monitor construction, and require a bond to ensure compliance with the Conditional Use Permit, among other regulations.
The draft rules also address battery storage facilities, a relatively new technology for Louisa County. Because the lithium-ion batteries pose a fire risk, the regulations require that applicants specify where they plan to locate storage on their site and address both the threat of fire and the fiscal impact on county services for fighting fires.
The county’s current solar ordinance already requires developers to submit a decommissioning plan and a decommissioning bond. The amendments include a provision that prohibits developers from disposing of solar panels in Louisa County’s landfill.
Planners and some members of the public expressed concerns with several aspects of the draft rules at the April meeting, particularly the prohibition on constructing smaller utility-scale solar projects. Louisa District Planner Manning Woodward observed that the draft rules signal that Louisa County doesn’t have much interest in more solar development.
“We are looking to put huge projects in here if they’re going to come in. I take it the reason for most of these requirements is to really not have much solar in the county,” Woodward said, noting that, in his view, solar facilities have minimal impact on neighbors and are “what we want to do green-wise in this country.”
Several planners noted that only one of the seven utility-scale solar facilities already approved by the county exceeds 150 MW. That facility, green-lighted for construction on parts of a nearly 1,400-acre tract near the county reservoir, was originally expected to generate 244 MW of power but representatives from Aura Power, the company developing the site, have since said it will produce 150 MW or less. The seven approved sites are slated to cover more than 5,000 acres so, if supervisors adopt the proposed cap on acreage and floor on megawatt generation, it’s likely only two or three more facilities could be built in the county.
In an email to the commission, Matthew Herndon, whose family is leasing 160 acres outside of Gordonsville to Pine Gate Renewables for potential construction of the 16 MW Turkey solar project, said that the 151 MW floor would kill a good project and amounts to a “terrible intrusion on our property rights.”
“I can tell you, as a full-time farmer, how tough it is trying to make a living off the land. Solar allows small and large landowners an opportunity to keep their land and get a return off it while not draining county resources in the form of more schools, fire and rescue, sheriff’s department etc. It’s also good for our environment and makes us less dependent on foreign sources of energy,” Herndon said.
Chris Wu, who represents several solar developers for the global environmental consulting firm ERM, questioned the value of permitting larger sites over smaller ones. He said that smaller sites allow developers to target more suitable land, meaning there will be fewer negative impacts, making the county’s review process simpler. He noted that larger sites bring more uncertainties because they often include pockets of land that are less than ideal for solar development and require additional site work.
Woodward and Cuckoo District Planner George Goodwin teamed up to criticize other elements of the proposal including a provision that doubles the buffer requirement. Goodwin said that he’s concerned about a one-size-fits-all approach to shielding the projects, noting that many of the complaints he’s heard about solar facilities focus on their impact on viewsheds. He said the county “treat(s) every project as if it’s on a tabletop.” Woodward called the provision “overkill.”
Goodwin noted that both the proposed amendments and the county’s current solar ordinance include extensive language about constructing solar sites but suggested neither adequately address decommissioning, a key concern for some residents who worry about reclaiming rural land when solar developers leave.
“There are two phases of the project that will interrupt traffic and disturb ground. One’s construction, the other’s decommissioning. But all of our words talk about construction. Do we need to specify traffic studies, upgraded erosion studies (for decommissioning)?” Goodwin asked.
Woodward wondered if the draft amendments sufficiently address battery storage sites. He suggested that the ordinance should include a provision specifying where the facilities could be located, noting that he’s particularly concerned about toxic fumes released from battery storage fires. Woodward said that the only battery storage system green-lighted in the county to date, Energix’s 50 MW facility approved as part of the Two Oaks project at the Cooke Industrial Rail Park, is slated for construction just off Chopping Road near residential dwellings.
Goodwin asked if county officials are adequately prepared to analyze all the information they’re asking for under the draft amendments including detailed engineering reports during construction of solar sites.
Before motioning to table the draft rules in April, Goodwin said that planners had raised a number of meaty questions, making it clear to him that the proposal wasn’t “ready for primetime.”
Planners will have their second opportunity to formally make recommendations about the draft regulations Thursday night. But the Board of Supervisors has the final say on the rules that will shape utility-scale solar development in the years to come.
Public hearing set for proposed regulations on short-term rentals: Planners will hold a public hearing and consider whether to recommend to the Board of Supervisors adoption of regulations governing the establishment and operation of short-term rentals. The currently unregulated lodging options are available county-wide but especially popular around Lake Anna.
In a presentation to the Planning Commission about the draft proposal at its April meeting, Deputy County Administrator Chris Coon said that, in March 2022, 380 structures were available as short-term rentals in Louisa County, according to an online survey of Airbnb, Vrbo, and other websites. STRs are defined as dwellings offered as lodging for less than 30 consecutive days in exchange for payment.
With the STR market growing rapidly, some Lake Anna residents have urged county officials to crack down, complaining that the rentals are essentially businesses operating in residential communities. They say short-term rentals threaten the character and tranquility of their neighborhoods and present environmental and public safety concerns. At recent Board of Supervisors’ meetings, residents said that overcrowded STRs can cause septic systems to fail, threatening the health of the lake, and pose significant risks if there’s a fire.
In response to those concerns, Board Chair and Mineral District Supervisor Duane Adams appointed himself and Cuckoo District Supervisor Willie Gentry to a working group tasked with proposing rules to govern the rentals. Adams and Gentry’s districts include most of the lake.
The working group consulted with Dominion Energy, the Louisa County Chamber of Commerce, the Lake Anna Business Partnership, and residents of the Overton Fork subdivision, who initially brought their concerns to the board. The county also reached out to Web Excavating, a company that installs septic systems.
The draft regulations would establish a county-wide short-term rental registry, requiring STR operators to annually register their property and pay a $50 fee. The registry would help the county track and monitor STRs and ensure they’re paying the transient occupancy tax.
The ordinance would require that STR operators provide the county with a property management plan, a copy of at least a $1 million general liability insurance policy, and a statement from any homeowners’ association whose rules apply to the STR.
If the property is not served by public water and sewer, the ordinance would require operators to provide proof that the STR’s septic system is adequate for its occupancy and to have the system inspected annually. It would also require that operators provide renters with a copy of Louisa County’s noise and solid waste ordinances.
The draft regulations compel STR owners to maintain a list, for no less than two years, of all visitors’ names, addresses, ages, and the dates they rented the property and prohibit operators from renting STRs for events.
The draft ordinance limits occupancy to two people per bedroom, requires that guests park their vehicles in the driveway or other designated spaces, and stipulate that safety equipment, like smoke detectors, is maintained in accord with state building code standards. The rules would authorize Louisa County officials to inspect STRs with at least 48 hours’ notice.
STR operators who fail to register their property or otherwise violate the ordinance could be subject to a maximum $500 fine. STR operators may be prohibited from offering a specific property for short-term rental after multiple violations.
Several commissioners asked how the county would communicate the regulations to STR operators and how they’d be enforced.
Coon said that Granicus, software the county uses for other purposes, can provide functions that track STRs. The county recently used the software to identify existing short-term rentals. Based on Granicus’ listings and the Commissioner of Revenue’s records, county officials could reach out to many STR operators to notify them of any new rules, Coon said. He added that the county could establish a hotline for complaints and that Granicus offers software that accepts and tracks online complaints.
Click here to learn more about the draft regulations.
Commission to consider Conditional Use Permit for special event venue: Planners will hold a public hearing and consider whether to recommend to the Board of Supervisors approval of Larry G. Han and Jianjun Tang’s request for a Conditional Use Permit to operate a special occasion facility and cottages on a 225.4-acre farm zoned agricultural (A-2). The property, comprised of a 215.4-acre and 10-acre parcel (tax map parcels 53-116, 53-117), is located at 1658 Evergreen Road in the Patrick Henry Voting District. Han and Tang own the parcels via Evergreen Farm at Rocky Creek LLC.
According to their land use application, Han and Tang plan to operate a special event venue that hosts weddings, bridal showers, reunions, parties, and other events while maintaining much of the land as a working farm. The property includes a farmhouse with a basement that the owners intend to temporarily use as lodging for visitors who wish to stay on property during their event. The basement offers a large dressing room to accommodate guests preparing for weddings and other special occasions. Han and Tang plan to build 12 cottages for lodging in the future.
The applicants envision the farm as both an indoor and outdoor event venue. It’s already home to a 2,000-square foot barn for indoor gatherings and an expansive lawn and patio for outdoor events. Han and Tang note in their application that they plan to build a pavilion adjacent to the barn.
The applicants estimate that the venue will host three to four events per month with none exceeding 300 guests. They plan to supply a trailer, that won’t utilize a septic system, as a restroom facility. Events involving food require catering and no food preparation or dishwashing will take place on site.
In accord with Virginia Department of Transportation recommendations, Han and Tang plan to widen and pave the entrance to the venue off Evergreen Road. They also plan to plant an evergreen buffer at the front of the property. The applicants note that the home and barn sit some 1,000 feet from the road with adjacent fields and forests acting as natural buffers.
Han and Tang are applying for a special exception to allow a grass parking area to serve the venue. Louisa County land development regulations require gravel, stone, asphalt, or concrete for off-street parking areas. The special exception is subject to Board of Supervisors approval and the Planning Commission won’t consider it Thursday night as part of the CUP request.
Louisa County planning staff recommend approval of the CUP with 13 conditions, agreed to by the applicants in a May 2 email. The conditions cap event attendance at 300 people, limit event hours to between 8 am and 10 pm, require that music at events comply with the county’s noise ordinance, and mandate the use of dark-sky compliant lighting, among other provisions. Any event expected to exceed 100 people requires at least one sheriff’s deputy on site for traffic control.
Planning Staff and the applicants hosted a neighborhood meeting on April 13 to provide information and answer questions about the proposal. One resident attended and no one expressed opposition, according to a staff report.
Previous owners acquired a Conditional Use Permit for the property in 2011, permitting the operation of a nature camp for children. That permit prohibited the construction of permanent camping structures, limiting camping to tents and natural shelters.
Click here for contact information for the Louisa County Board of Supervisors.
Find agendas and minutes from previous Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission meetings as well as archived recordings here.
Click here for contact information for the Louisa County School Board.
Click here for minutes and agendas for School Board meetings.
Click here to access past editions of Engage Louisa.